Kitchen Reference

We’re giving you the keys to the kitchen, so you can unlock your inner chef. Find a glossary of terms, techniques, equipment, ingredients and more to improve your skills in the kitchen, and bring your A game to the table.

  Ingredients List
 

Adobo Sauce, Adobo Sauce With Chipotle Peppers, Adobo Seasoning

Description

  • Adobo sauce is a dark red, spicy Mexican sauce or paste made from ground chilies, vinegar and herbs. Other ingredients such as onions, tomatoes and spices may be added.  Adobo means sauce or marinade in Spanish and is used in Mexican or southwestern cooking as a marinade or a sauce.
  • Chipotle chilies are often packed in adobo sauce. 
  • Adobo seasoning is sold in a powdered form.

Buying

  • Adobo sauce is most often sold in the ethnic food section in 8.25 ounce jars.  The adobo sauce with chipotle peppers is often sold in 7 or 12 ounce cans.

Measuring

  • Measure adobo sauce as you would other liquids.
  • When a recipe calls for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, remove the amount of chilies needed for the recipe.  Sometimes the sauce is also called for.

 Storage

  • Adobo sauce with chilies can be frozen in a well sealed bag or container for a few months.
  • Use by the freshness date on the jar.

Agave Syrup

Description

  • Agave syrup is made from the nectar of the agave or Century plant. It is a cactus-like or succulent plant that grows in the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. It is considered a natural sweetener.
  • Agave syrup has a sweet mild flavor. It is available in light or amber nectars. It is often sold as an organic product and is sweeter than sugar.
  • Sweeten hot or cold beverages with agave syrup.  The syrup can also be used in baked goods. Lighter syrup is good used for lighter baked goods.  The amber or darker syrup lends a more caramel like flavor to baked goods.

Buying

  • Look for agave syrup in the baking section in jars or in the organic food section.

Storing

  • Keep the jar well sealed and store in a cool, dry place. Use by the expiration date.
  Substitutions
  • Light agave syrup can be substituted for granulated sugar in baking.  Use 2/3 cup for 1 cup of sugar and reduce the liquid 1/4 to 1/3 cup. The amber syrup can be substituted for brown sugar.  Use 2/3 cup for 1 cup of brown sugar and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup. Cookies made from agave syrup will not be as crisp; they will have a more cake-like texture.

Aioli

Description

  • Aioli is a mayonnaise flavored with garlic that originated in the Provence region of France.
  • Aioli is typically served as a sauce or condiment with vegetables, fish or chicken.

Buying and Storing

  • Commercially prepared aioli can be found in the condiment section of the supermarket. Refrigerate after opening

Alcohol/Liquer

  Substitutions
  • Substitute the same amount (volume) of liquid in the recipe as originally called for with alcohol. Depending on the recipe, apple juice or chicken broth often makes a good substitution for wine. When using flavored liqueurs, extracts can be substituted if you make up the balance of the liquid with water.

    For example, if a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) you could use 1/2 teaspoon orange extract and 5 1/2 teaspoons water. Just be sure to get the same level of orange flavor. This may take some experimentation.

Allspice

Description

  • Allspice is an aromatic spice with an aroma of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. It has a distinct flavor and is deep brown in color.
  • It is available ground or as whole dried berries.
  • It is a popular spice to use in baking and the whole dried berries are often used in pickling.

Storage

  • Store whole and ground spices in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. Heat, light, and moisture cause spices to lose their flavor faster.
  • Do not store spices above the range or oven.
  Substitutions
  • Substitute for 1 teaspoon ground allspice: 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, mixed together.

Almond

Description

  • An almond is the kernel from the shell of the almond fruit tree. Almonds have a tan colored shell and an almond shape. They are sweet, crunchy and flavorful.
  • Almonds are sold unshelled seasonally, and also are sold blanched or unblanched. Unblanched means the skin is still on the nut. They are sold sliced, chopped, slivered, candied, and smoked.
  • Almonds are tasty as a snack and used in many desserts, in baked goods and in some Asian main dishes. One pound unshelled almonds equal about 1/3 pound shelled.

Storage and Freshness

  • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled nuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled nuts will keep twice as long.
  • Shelled nuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh and not be not be rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts may ruin a baked product. Always taste nuts before using.

Almond Paste or Filling

Description

  • Almond paste is a firm, but pliable mixture of sugar and blanched ground almonds sold in a can or tube. It is used to make some desserts and cookies. It is sweet, with a prominent almond flavor.
  • Almond cake and pastry filling is also sold.  This has evaporated milk and other ingredients added and is more fluid. It is used for fillings in pastries and cakes.

Buying and storing

  • Almond paste is sold in tubes and cans in the baking aisle.
  •   Don’t substitute almond paste with the other two products.
  •  Use the product up by the expiration date. 
  • Almond paste may be frozen and thawed before using.

Tip

  • If almond paste is too firm to blend, soften in the microwave for just a few seconds.

American Cheese

Description

  • Process American cheese is very popular and most often sold in 5-pound blocks for slicing in the deli or in 2-pound loaves or slices in the dairy case. Because the cheese is pasteurized it has a longer shelf life than natural cheese.
  • American cheese can be yellow or white and mild or sharp in flavor.
  • Process cheese is made from natural cheese. The cheese is pasteurized or heated and emulsifiers are added to disperse the fat. Other ingredients can be added for flavored process cheese, reduced fat process cheese or to create singles or slices of process cheese. The cheese is then poured into forms or made into slices.  Process cheese melts quickly and smoothly.

Storage

  • Keep cheese refrigerated at temperatures of 35°F to 40°F.
  • Wrap all cheese tightly in the original wrapper, plastic food wrap, special cheese paper or aluminum foil to retain moisture and prevent mold.
  • Process cheeses like American have a long shelf life because they are pasteurized. Once they are opened, or sliced in the deli, keep them tightly wrapped and refrigerated to avoid drying out.
  • Freezing cheese is not recommended. However, if you do, freeze cheese in small amounts of less than one-half pound, no thicker than one-inch. Wrap well.
  • To use frozen cheese, thaw slowly in the refrigerator. Thawed cheese may be mottled in color, which should even out after thawing. Frozen cheese is usually crumbly and more suitable for cooking than for serving to guests or using for snacks.
  • What about mold? Most molds are harmless, but to be safe, discard at least one-half inch of cheese on all sides of the visible mold. Tips:
    • Make sure the knife blade is thoroughly cleaned when cutting each surface to avoid spreading mold to the freshly cut surface.
    • Use new wrap when rewrapping, to avoid spreading mold spores to the fresh areas.

Cooking With Cheese

  • Melt cheese at a low temperature for a short time, stirring often. Cheese needs just enough heat to melt and blend with other ingredients. If heated too long or at too high a temperature, the cheese can become tough and stringy, and the fat can separate.
  • Cheese melts more quickly when shredded or cubed. Shred it when cold for easier shredding.
  • A process cheese like American will melt evenly and smoothly with no fat separation. Process cheese can be cubed to speed up melting time.
  • When cheese is used to top an entree, add it near the end of the baking time so it has only enough time to melt.

Cutting and Serving Cheese

  • Cheese is easiest to cut when it’s cold.
  • Use a clean sharp knife to cut the cheese.
  • Cut rectangular, square, and cylindrical cheese into slices.
  • Cheese can also be cut into cubes.
  • Use a serrated cutter to make attractive crinkle cut shapes.
  • If you’re preparing a snack tray, try cutting a variety of shapes using a knife or small canape or cookie cutter.
  • To enjoy the full flavor of cheese, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Be sure to keep it wrapped until it is served.
  • Cheeses are appropriate for all types of entertaining. How much to buy depends on the type of occasion, time of day, other foods being served, number of guests, and even the mix of people in attendance. Below are some good rules to follow:
    • Plan on 2 to 3 ounces of cheese per person when preparing snacks or sandwiches.
    • Allow a serving of 3 ounces of cheese when cheese is the only protein source, such as a cheese and fruit platter.
    • A 2-ounce serving is adequate when other food, such as seafood, appetizers or meats, are served along with the cheese.

Anchovy Paste

Description

  • Anchovy paste is made from ground anchovies (a small salted fish), spices, vinegar and water. It has a unique, pungent flavor.
  • Anchovy paste is used in Caesar salad dressing and as an ingredient in some salad dressing and sauces.

Buying

  • Anchovy paste is sold in tubes in the canned fish section of the store.

Storing

  • Store the tube in the refrigerator after opening.

Anise/Aniseed

Description

  • Anise or aniseed is an herb that has feathery, aromatic medium green leaves.
  • The tiny seeds are used whole or crushed in breads, cakes and cookies.
  • The leaf can be used in salads.
  • Anise has a licorice flavor.

Buying

  • Look for fresh-looking herbs with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried herbs are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

Storing

  • Use herbs within a few days to 1 week.
  • Store fresh herbs in the container they were purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the herbs are loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag they will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  • Store dried herbs and seeds away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

Tip

  • To revive limp herbs, trim off about 1/2 inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
  • Wash herbs just before using and pat dry.
  Substitutions
  • Dried herbs are more potent than fresh, so if substituting them for fresh herbs, start with one half the amount of fresh herbs, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried herb in place of 1 tablespoon fresh herb.

Apple

Description

  • An apple is a fruit that has been grown for thousands of years. It is a very popular fruit that comes in many shapes, colors and sizes as well as flavor and textures.
  • Flavors can be sweet to tart, texture can be soft, almost mushy to very crisp.
  • Apples are a good source of vitamins and fiber.
  • Apples are popular for eating and are also used in salads, pies and other baked goods, in applesauce and in many other recipes.
  • Apple cider is made by pressing juice from the pulp of apples and is used as a juice or to make apple cider vinegar. Sweet apple juice will ferment, so it is most often filtered and pasteurized before selling.   
  • Some varieties are:
    • Baldwin is a soft, early fall apple good for baking and sauce. The color of the apple is yellow with a striped red blush.
    • Braeburn is a crisp, sweet/tart apple that holds its shape in baking. It is good for all uses. The color of the apple is yellow with a striped red blush.
    • Cortland is a sweet, tart apple with a somewhat soft texture and is good for pies and baking. It is deep red.
    •  Fireside is a large sweet apple that does not bake well.
    • Fuji is a sweet crisp apple, which is best for eating. It is a yellow green apple with red highlights to an almost all red apple.
    • Gala is very sweet and crisp and best for eating. Gala apples are a red striped to solid red apple.
    • Granny Smith is a tangy and crisp green apple that remains firm when baked. Good for pies and all purposes.
    • Golden Delicious is an apple with a sweet honey-like flavor, is juicy, and has a soft texture. It is golden to light yellow green in color.  It is an all-purpose apple. It retains its shape when baking, but is tender.
    • Haralson is a firm, tart apple that is good for eating and pies.
    • Honeycrisp is a relatively new apple, which has a honey flavor and a crisp texture. It is great for eating and for baking. The color is about 3/4 red over a yellow background.
    • Jonagold is a tangy and sweet apple and is best for eating. It has a red over yellow coloring.
    • Jonathan is tart and tangy apple and makes a good pie.
    • McIntosh is an old time apple which is slightly mealy and falls apart when cooked. The color is a deep red tinged with green.  It is good for applesauce.
    • Paula Red is a round red apple that has some yellow.  It is tangy and good for pies and eating.
    • Red Delicious is semi firm, sweet apple and is best for eating. The skin is a little tough. It has a traditional apple shape.
    • Regent is a sweet apple good for sauce.
    • Rome is slightly sweet apple, which has a crisp texture but cooks down for baking and pies.

Buying

  • Look for apples with a smooth surface without bruises and blemishes. Some apple varieties are only available during certain times of the year. Fall is when a bumper crop of different varieties are at their best.

Storing

  • Store apples in the refrigerator or a cool place.
  • Once apple cider is opened, refrigerate.  Fresh apple juice needs to be store in the refrigerator and used by the expiration date.

Measuring

  • There are 3 to 4 apples in a pound, depending on the size; one pound equals about 3 cups sliced

Tip

  • Some of the best pies and crisps used a variety of apples. Some hold their shape and others soften during baking.

Apple Butter

Description

  • Apple butter is a thick mixture made by slowly cooking apples with sugar and spices and apple juice or cider.  It is most often used as a spread on bread or toast.

Buying

  • Look for apple butter in the jams and jellies section of the store.

Storing

  • After opening, store apple butter in the refrigerator and use by the expiration date.

Apple Pie Spice

  Substitutions
  • Substitute 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a pinch ground allspice for 1 tablespoon apple pie spice.

Applesauce

Description

  • Applesauce is a cooked puree of apples, sugar and sometimes spices.
  • It can vary in texture from smooth to chunky
  • Applesauce can be substituted for oil in some baked goods to reduce calories. Use the same amount of applesauce as you would oil.

Buying and Storing

  • Applesauce can be found in the canned fruit section of the grocery store.
  • It is sold in jars and plastic snack-sized containers.
  • Store in the cupboard and refrigerate after opening

 

Apricot

Description

  • An apricot is related to the peach family. It is small and can be pale yellow to dark orange with a rosy blush and has a balanced flavor.
  • An apricot contains one pit and it splits in half easily.
  • Apricots have a short season, mid to late summer.
  • They are eaten, skin and all. Many apricots are just eaten as a snack but they can be used as a dessert or in cobblers or crisps. Apricots can also be purchased canned or dried.

Buying and Storing

  • A ripe apricot should be somewhat firm, have a rich color with no green. It should yield to slight pressure. When ripe an apricot is sweet, juicy and has a short shelf life.
  • Keep apricots on the counter a few days or store in the refrigerator to keep them from getting too soft.

Artichokes, Artichoke Hearts, Baby Artichokes

Description

  • An artichoke is actually a flower bud of a thistle-like plant. Globe artichokes are the most common. Artichokes are available year round, but are most abundant in late spring.
  • Artichokes consist of the outer leaves, inner leaves, the stem, the heart and the choke. To prepare, the damaged or tough outer leaves are stripped away. Twist off the stalk or stem. Cut off the top third of the artichoke. Once the artichoke is cooked in water (with lemon juice), remove the coarse leaves and the hairy choke. The inner leaves can be dipped into melted butter or a sauce; then the fleshy part is scraped off with your teeth and the leaf is discarded. The heart is the tender part of the artichoke.
  • A bunch of smaller buds grows on the stock and they are sold as baby artichokes. They can be cooked and eaten whole, even the choke.
  • Artichokes hearts are sold canned or marinated in jars. Canned or marinated artichokes are often used in salads, appetizers and main dishes or on an antipasto platter.
  • Artichoke hearts are the tender bottom of the artichoke from which the leaves and fuzzy choke have been removed. The flat disk is the heart or bottom.

Buying

  • Look for compact heads which should be olive green, have no off color or shriveled leaves. You will find them in the produce section almost year round, but late spring to the end of the year is when they are the best.

Storing

  • Fresh artichokes are best refrigerated in a plastic bag and kept dry. They can be kept this way for up to one week. Canned or jarred artichokes should be used by the date on the can or jar.

Tip

  • Use stainless steel or glass to cook the artichoke to prevent discoloration.  Cook until bottoms can be pierced with a knife tip.
  • Cook fresh artichokes in boiling water to which lemon juice has been added to avoid discoloration.

Arugula

Description

  • Arugula is a slightly bitter and aromatic salad green that has a peppery mustard flavor. It is sold in bunches in the spring and is often used in spring mixes of greens.

Buying and Storing

  • Look for fresh looking leaves that are crisp, not wilted and with no yellow leaves. Iceberg heads are often wrapped in cellophane. Others are sold in plastic containers or unwrapped.  Keep lightly wrapped in the produce bin and use within a few days. Wash just before using and pat dry.
  • Smaller leaves and stalks are tenderer and some are best when they are young. Tender greens need to be cooked only a few minutes.
  • Some greens are quite seasonal and a larger variety may be found at farmer’s markets during the summer.

Asandero Cheese

Description

  • Asadero is a Mexican cheese that is semi-soft. It has a firm, smooth texture and mildly tangy flavor. It has mozzarella-like characteristics and melts well. It can come in braids, loaves, balls and has a smooth, glossy appearance. It can substitute for Monterey Jack and mozzarella cheese. Sometimes it is called Oaxaca, which is where it was first produced in Mexico.
  • Keep cheese refrigerated at temperatures of 35°F to 40°F.
  • Wrap cheese tightly in the original wrapper or container, plastic food wrap, special cheese paper or aluminum foil to retain moisture and prevent mold.

Asiago Cheese

Description

  • Asiago originated in Italy. It is made from cow’s milk and formed into large wheels. It has a rind and a white to yellow interior, depending on the age of the cheese. It can have small to medium openings, or eyes. It becomes hard and grainy as it ages and can be used for shredding or grating. The flavor is mild when young and becomes sharp and pungent as it ages. It is often used in shredded blends of cheese.
  • Keep cheese refrigerated at temperatures of 35°F to 40°F.
  • Wrap cheese tightly in the original wrapper or container, plastic food wrap, special cheese paper or aluminum foil to retain moisture and prevent mold.

Asparagus

Description

  • Asparagus are thin stalks that come in white, purple and green. For many people they announce spring, as that is the prime season for them. At the tip of each stalk are tight pointed buds. Green asparagus is the most common and the stalks are 6 to 10-inches long. They can be tinged with a purple blush at the tip. White asparagus is harvested as soon as is appears above the ground while purple asparagus grows up to 2 inches before being harvested and has a stronger flavor.
  • Asparagus means sprout or shoot. Most asparagus is now grown in California.
  • Asparagus is a good source of vitamins and minerals.
  • Asparagus is good hot or cold. Asparagus is easy to prepare. Try roasting asparagus with olive oil and sea salt. It can also be used in stir frys, soups, risottos or added to salads.

Buying

  • Look for asparagus spears that are firm with tight buds in the produce section. Woody stems need to be cut or snapped off. Thick asparagus stalks can be just as tender as thin stalks.
  • Asparagus can be found in the freezer section or canned.

Storing

  • If the asparagus will be used within a few days, store in a plastic bag in the produce bin. Some people like to trim the ends and place them in a tall glass filled with some water.

Tip

  • Asparagus spears that are a uniform size make for more even cooking or roasting.

Avocado

Description

  • An avocado is actually a fruit grown on a tropical tree. The avocado can be green or almost black, depending on the variety. There are more than twenty varieties of avocadoes.
  • Avocadoes are available all year long. They are used on salads, for guacamole, in sandwiches or as a garnish on Mexican dishes.
  • Avocadoes have a buttery texture and a somewhat nutty flavor. They can be pear or round shaped and range in size from ounces to pounds.
  • A Hass avocado has an almost black slightly rough, pebbly skin. The flesh is pale golden yellow.  A Fuerte avocado is green and has a smooth skin and pale green flesh.

Buying

  • Avocadoes are picked before they are ripened. Look for unblemished fruit. A ripe avocado will yield slightly to pressure.

Storage

  • If ripe, avocadoes keep 2 to 4 days in the refrigerator. To ripen, place in paper bag for 2 to 4 days at room temperature. Once an avocado is cut and exposed to air it darkens. Lemon or lime juice applied to the surface will help prevent some discoloration. Wrap a cut avocado well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. You may need to cut away some of the discoloration to use.

Tip

  • Add avocado to salad and sandwiches at the last minute to avoid discoloration, wrap with plastic wrap until served.
  • Have all the other ingredients ready for the guacamole and just mash the avocado in right before serving. Lime juice is added to guacamole and that helps prevent discoloration.
  • Avocado slices can be brushed with lemon or lime juice to prevent discoloration.

Baguette

Description

  • A baguette is a long, narrow cylindrical loaf of bread that has a crisp exterior and a chewy interior.
  • Baguettes are used sliced for appetizers like bruschetta, as bread with a meal or for a sandwich.

Buying and storing

  • Baguettes are best eaten the day they are purchased. Freeze in a freezer plastic bag if not using immediately.

Baguette

Description

  • A baguette is a long, narrow cylindrical loaf of bread that has a crisp exterior and a chewy interior.
  • Baguettes are used sliced for appetizers like bruschetta, as bread with a meal or for a sandwich.

Buying and storing

  • Baguettes are best eaten the day they are purchased. Freeze in a freezer plastic bag if not using immediately.

Baking Chocolate

  Substitutions
  • Substitute 1-ounce unsweetened chocolate for 1-ounce baking chocolate.

Baking Powder

Description

  • Baking powder is a chemical leavening agent that is a combination of baking soda, plus an acid such as cream of tartar, plus a moisture absorber such as cornstarch. 
  • In the presence of heat and moisture, the baking powder reacts to form carbon dioxide gas in a baked product to make it rise. 
  • The most common type of baking powder is double-acting baking powder. Double-acting baking powder produces gas twice.
    • During mixing when baking powder gets wet.
    • During baking when the heat completes the reaction.

Storage

  • Store baking powder tightly covered in a dry place.
  • Baking powder stays fresh for about one year. Check the container for the expiration date. 

Measuring

  • Use a standard measuring spoon and be sure the spoon is dry when measuring. Fill a standard measuring spoon to the top and level with a spatula or knife.

Testing for Freshness

  • Place 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup hot water. If the mixture foams, the baking powder is still good. If it does not foam, replace your box of baking powder.
  Substitutions
  • Substitute 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon corn starch for 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Baking Soda

Description

  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is used as a leavening agent when a recipe contains acid ingredients.
  • Baking soda, an alkaline ingredient, plus an acid ingredient, such as buttermilk, vinegar, molasses or sour cream creates a chemical reaction to form carbon dioxide gas in a baked product making it rise and become light and porous. 
  • Heat is not necessary for the chemical reaction, so the reaction begins as soon as liquid ingredients are added. Therefore, products leavened with baking soda should be baked immediately after mixing or the gases will escape and the product will not rise. 

Storage

  • Store baking soda tightly covered in a dry place. Baking soda loses strength with age, so fresh is best. It stays fresh for about one year. 

Substitutions

  • There is no substitution for baking soda. 

Measuring

  • Use a standard measuring spoon and be sure the spoon is dry when measuring. Fill a standard measuring spoon to the top and level with a spatula or knife.

Testing for Freshness

  • Place 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon vinegar. If the mixture fizzes, the baking soda is still good. If the mixture does not fizz, throw out the old box and buy a new one.

Banana

Description

  • A banana is a popular tropical fruit. They grow in bunches and develop flavor and color after they are picked. Bananas are available year round.
  • There are many varieties of bananas. Cavendish, the yellow supermarket banana, is the most popular in the United States, but there are bananas in many colors and many sizes. Some bananas are finger size, others are chunky and are sweeter.
  • Bananas are popular for eating, topping cereal, banana bread and banana pudding. Bananas are the base of banana splits!

Buying

  • Look for bunches of bananas that are plump and even-colored. Avoid those that are soft, discolored or have bruises (unless they are on sale and you want to make banana bread!).

Storing

  • To ripen a banana: Keep the banana at room temperature or place in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process. Ripe bananas can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days. The skin will darken but the interior will be creamy white.
Tips
  • There are about three medium bananas to one pound and one pound equals about 1 1/2 cups mashed banana.
  • Too many ripe bananas all at once? They are great for baking. Freeze the bananas, peel and all. When ready to use, thaw on counter top for a few minutes or microwave on defrost setting for 10 seconds or until slightly soft. The banana will pop out of the skin with slight pressure and be soft and ready to measure for great banana bread, cakes and muffins.
  • To prevent bananas in a fresh fruit salad, brush cut surfaces lightly with lemon juice, or just add at the last minute.

Bananas

Description

  • Bananas are a popular tropical fruit. They grow in a bunch and develop flavor and color after they are picked. Bananas are available year round.
  • There are many varieties of bananas. Cavendish, the yellow supermarket banana, is the most popular in the United States, but there are bananas in many colors and many sizes. Some bananas are finger size, others are chunky and are sweeter.
  • Bananas are popular for just eating, topping cereal, banana bread and banana pudding. Bananas are the base of banana splits!

Buying

  • Look for bunches of bananas that are plump and even-colored. Avoid those that are soft, discolored or have bruises (unless they are on sale and you want to make banana bread!).

Storing

  • To ripen bananas keep at room temperature or place in paper bag to speed up the ripening process. Ripe bananas can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days. The skin will darken but the interior will be creamy white.

Measuring

  • There are about three medium bananas to one pound and one pound equals about 1 1/2 cups mashed banana.

Tip

  • Too many ripe bananas all at once? They are great for baking. Freeze the bananas, peel and all. When ready to use, thaw on counter top for a few minutes or microwave on defrost setting for 10 seconds or until slightly soft. The banana will pop out of the skin with slight pressure and be soft and ready to measure for great banana bread, cakes and muffins.
  • To prevent bananas from browning in a fresh fruit salad, brush cut surfaces lightly with lemon juice, or just add at the last minute.

Barbecue Sauce

  Substitutions
  • Substitute 1 cup ketchup and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke seasoning for 1 cup barbecue sauce.

Basil

Description

  • Basil comes in many varieties. A common variety has large oval pointed leaves with a warm, slightly spicy flavor. Lemon basil has a lemony scent, Greek basil has tiny, compact leaves and dark opal basil has crinkled purple leaves.
  • Basil is a key ingredient in pesto. It is found in many tomato dishes as it complements that flavor. Basil is an important culinary herb. The flavor intensifies with cooking, but also discolors the leaf. Fresh basil is available in the produce section year round, grows well in container gardens and is also available dried.

Buying

  • Look for fresh-looking herbs with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried herbs are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

Storing

  • Use herbs within a few days to 1 week, depending on the herb. Parsley will last longer.
  • Store herbs in the container they were purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the herbs are loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag they will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  • Store dried herbs away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

Tip

  • To revive limp herbs, trim off about 1/2-inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
  • Wash herbs just before using and pat dry.
  • Most herbs do best when added at the end of cooking.
  • Herbs are easy to grow and as you snip what you need, the plant keeps growing. Many produce departments sell the most common herbs in a pot for year round growing in a sunny spot.
  Substitutions
  • Dried herbs are more potent than fresh, so if substituting them for fresh herbs, start with one half the amount of fresh herbs, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried basil instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.

Bay Leaves

Description

  • Bay leaves are leaves of the aromatic bay laurel tree. Bay leaves are most often used dried. There are two types, the Turkish which has a subtle flavor and is oval and the California bay leaf which is stronger flavored and has narrow leaves.
  • A leaf or two of bay leaves is all that is needed in soups and stews. It is used in bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme and parsley). Bay leaves need to be removed before serving, as they can be a choking hazard. They have a long shelf life if the jar is tightly sealed and kept in a cool, dry place.

Buying

  • Dried bay leaves can be found in jars in the spice section of the store. Sometimes fresh bay leaves can be found in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section.

Storing

  • Store dried bay leaves away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

Beans (Canned, Dried, Frozen)

Description

  • Legumes or beans come in many shapes, flavors and colors. They are high in fiber and contain many nutrients and are low in fat. They are used in many recipes, from soups to main dishes.
  • Dried beans can be purchased packaged or, in some stores, in bulk. Most are available in cans; the cooking is done for you. Some are available frozen.
  • Most dried beans need to soak before cooking (see tip). Lentils and black eyed beans (peas) do not need to be soaked.
  • Some types of dried beans are:
    • Black beans are also called turtle beans or Mexican black beans. They are kidney-shaped and have black shiny skins and a somewhat earthy flavor. These beans are used in soups, bean dips, enchiladas, salads. They are available canned in the Mexican section of the grocery store and in the canned bean section, as well as with the dried beans. One cup dried equals 2 cups cooked.
    • Black eyed beans (peas) are a cream colored bean with a black spot. They have a mild flavor and smooth texture. They are said to bring good luck if eaten on New Year’s Day. They are used in a dish that combines black eyed beans, rice and bacon called “Hoppin’ John. They are available dried and canned.
    • Cannellini beans are also called a white kidney bean. These beans are large, white, have a smooth texture and a slightly nutty flavor. They are used in bean soups, bean salads, minestrone and other Italian dishes. They are available dried and canned. One cup dried beans equals 2 1/2 cups cooked.
    • Chickpeas, see Garbanzo beans below.
    • Chili beans or pink beans are similar to the pinto bean but are smaller and rounder. They are used for chili and refried beans.
    • Cranberry beans are a pink bean with beige streaks used in soups and stews. They are available dried.
    • Fava beans are large, orange-colored, plump beans in a large tough pod. They have a somewhat strong flavor and most often are used in soups and stews. Fava beans can be purchased dried, canned and fresh. See Beans, Fresh for fresh fava bean information.
    • Garbanzo beans are also called chickpeas. They are not a pea - although they grow in a pod - they are a legume. These beans look like a small hazelnut and have a slightly nutty flavor. Garbanzo beans are high in protein. The white garbanzo bean is considered the best. Garbanzo beans are used in salads and soups as well as hummus and falafel. They are available dried or canned. One cup dried beans equals 2 1/2 cups cooked.
    • Great Northern beans are a mild white bean used in soups and stews. They are available dried and canned.
    • Lima beans are also known as butter beans and are a large, flat white bean used in succotash, bean bakes and soups. Lima beans are a bit mealy or starchy. Seasonally lima beans can be sold fresh and are removed from the pod before cooking. They are available fresh, frozen, dried and canned. See Beans, Fresh for fresh lima bean information.
    • Navy beans are also called white beans. They are small, oval and white. Boston Baked Beans are made with this bean. They are also used in soups. They are available dried and canned. One cup dried equals about 2 1/4 cups cooked.
    • Pinto beans are beige with brown streaks. They turn a pinkish brown color when cooked. They are used in refried beans and chili. They are available dried and canned. One cup dried equals about 2 1/4 cup cooked.
    • Red kidney beans are also known as a chili bean. They are high in protein. They are used in chili and refried beans. They can be deep red or bright red. They are available dried and canned.
    • Soybeans are hard round beans found in many colors. They grow on a small bush like plant. The pods contain 2 to 5 round beans. Fresh soybeans are called Edamame, see Beans, Fresh. Soybeans are quite bland and can be us